It’s now possible to dynamically link web data into Google spreadsheets. For example, stock information can be pulled in via the simple formula GoogleFinance(ticker, attribute), where attribute can be any number of metrics from market capitalization to P/E ratio. Not much to choose from yet—at this point, there’s only GoogleFinance and GoogleLookup, which seems more novelty than useful, and I’d love to see more than just the obvious metrics available for GoogleFinance, things like cash per share, revenue growth over the past m years, number of insider purchases over the past n months, etc. However, it’s a great start, and it’s pretty easy to see where they’re going with this—after all, most spreadsheets are inherently linked to external data sources, though I’d wager a majority of them are “linked” via copy and paste. I look forward to the day when you can pull in all manner of structured information into a spreadsheet via similar formulas.
To me, this is the real value of “Office 2.0″. To compete, the office challengers have to go beyond just copying Microsoft Office on the web—success will come from exploiting the new platform, not cloning the old model. Pretty easy to see something like this grow into a platform all its own too. With a few more financial metrics, a slightly more powerful macro language, and the ability to connect to more arbitrary data sources (say, Google Base or the CSV files my bank makes available to me), I could track my finances on the web in a Google spreadsheet and give Quicken the boot (for what I want to do, Quicken is like driving a nail with a sledgehammer).